Songs of Love & Death

Following on the heels of both Warriors (Canada, USA, Europe) and Songs of the Dying Earth (Canada, USA, Europe), this is the third speculative fiction anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois featuring an all-star list of contributors.

In their introduction, the editors elaborate on the theme:

Which brings us down to the book you hold in your hands at this moment
(unless you're using your mental powers to make it levitate or reading it off a
screen), a cross-genre anthology called
Songs of Love & Death, which explores the borderlands of fantasy and romance stories from the heart and about the heart, tales of endangered love played out against every kind of setting, from ghost-haunted fantasy landscapes to mile-long spaceships in transit between the stars, stories where a lover's heart is put in danger, and love, life, and happiness are at risk with great odds to be overcome to achieve them. Star-crossed lovers who are really star-crossed, with grave obstacles to be overcome before they succeed in finding love (if they do).

And with a list of contributors including Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, Jacqueline Carey, Peter S. Beagle, Carrie Vaughn, and many more, I just had to read Songs of Love & Death.

Here's the blurb:

In this star-studded cross-genre anthology, seventeen of the greatest modern authors of fantasy, science fiction, and romance explore the borderlands of their genres with brand-new tales of ill-fated love. From zombie-infested woods in a postapocalyptic America to faery-haunted rural fields in eighteenth- century England, from the kingdoms of high fantasy to the alien world of a galaxy-spanning empire, these are stories of lovers who must struggle against the forces of magic and fate.

Award-winning, bestselling author Neil Gaiman demonstrates why he’s one of the hottest stars in literature today with “The Thing About Cassandra,” a subtle but chilling story of a man who meets an old girlfriend he had never expected to see.

International blockbuster bestselling author Diana Gabaldon sends a World War II RAF pilot through a stone circle to the time of her Outlander series in “A Leaf on the Winds of All Hallows.” Torn from all he knows, Jerry MacKenzie determinedly survives hardship and danger, intent on his goal of returning home to his wife and baby—no matter the cost.

New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher presents “Love Hurts,” in which Harry Dresden takes on one of his deadliest adversaries and in the process is forced to confront the secret desires of his own heart.

Just the smallest sampling promises unearthly delights, but look also for stories by New York Times bestselling romance authors Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney, and by such legends of the fantasy genre as Peter S. Beagle and Tanith Lee, as well as many other popular and beloved writers, including Marjorie M. Liu, Jacqueline Carey, Carrie Vaughn, and Robin Hobb. This exquisite anthology, crafted by the peerless editing team of George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is sure to leave you under its spell

The anthology opens up with "Love Hurts" by Jim Butcher. Imagine Harry and Murphy getting caught into a love spells while investigating a suicide case, and you have everything you need for a very entertaining reading experience.

In "The Marrying Maid," Jo Beverly introduces us to a man who must somehow find a way to seduce and marry a shy and reluctant maiden or forfeit the life of his entire family to the Queen of Faeries.

In Carrie Vaughn's "Rooftops," a woman falls in a love with a strange superhero who saved her life on the scene of a crime.

"Hurt Me" by M. L. N. Hanover (Daniel Abraham) recounts the disturbing tale of a young woman moving into a haunted house, where she must deal with the deranged ghost that appears to despise women.

In Cecelia Holland's "Demon Lover," crippled and disfigured Fioretta is turned into a beautiful young lady by a wizard, but she is aware that a price must be paid. Will she be willing to pay that price if it means she must sacrifice the love of her life?

"The Wayfarer's Advice" by Melinda M. Snodgrass recounts the story of a military man turned smuggler reunited with a woman poised to become the ruler of a galactic empire. This one is one of the strongest short fiction pieces of the anthology.

In "Blue Boots," Robin Hobb takes us back to the bestselling Farseer universe. It's the tale of a seemingly impossible love between an orphaned girl named Timbal and the charismatic minstrel Azen. The author's deft humane touch is once again on display in this romantic short story.

Neil Gaiman's "The Thing About Cassandra" is the troubling story of Stuart, who gets reunited with an old girlfriend. Trouble is, he made up Cassandra when he was a teenager and now she walks into his life.

"After the Blood" by Marjorie M. Liu is by far the best short fiction piece from Songs of Love & Death. It blew me away! In a post-apocalytic America, after a plague known as the Big Death wiped out a good portion of mankind and created something else, two lovers must come to term with what they have become in order to survive. Believe you me, you'll never look at the Amish quite the same way after reading this story.

In "You, and You Alone," Jacqueline Carey takes us back to the dying days of Anafiel Delaunay, known as the Whoremaster of Spies, as he looks back upon his life and a promise made by star-crossed lovers. One of the strongest pieces from the anthology, one that will satisfy Jacqueline Carey's legions of fans and win her new ones.

Lisa Tuttle's "His Wolf" recounts the tale of a woman falling in love with a strange fellow whose only companion is a wolf. She knows he's trouble, but she can't help herself. Not bad, but this short story is aimed at the paranormal romance crowd.

"Courting Trouble" by Linnea Sinclair is a rousing science fiction romp which demonstrates that trust between lovers, once lost, can often be impossible to regain. Still, Captain Serenity Beck has no choice but to trust an old flame to get her ship and crew out of trouble.

Mary Jo Putney's "The Demon Dancer" features two Guardians secretly in love with one another who must put aside their feelings to face a dangerous demon on a rampage. Another one for the paranormal romance crowd.

In Tanith Lee's "Under/Above the Water," lovers who lost themselves in one lifetime find themselves again in a different lifetime.

Peter S. Beagle's "Kaskia" features a man named Martin learning to operate an odd foreign computer. When the machine puts him in contact with someone else, Martin's life will change profoundly.

"Man in the Mirror" by Yasmine Galenorn is a tale about a ghost trying to escape the confines of his prison. The house has stood empty for a decade, but when Laurel comes to claim it the ghost is aware that this might be his only chance to escape from the mirror.

"A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" by Diana Gabaldon closes the show with a bang. When Jerry MacKenzie is recruited by MI6 to be part of a special mission, little does he know that he'll find himself in a different time and place. He'll do whatever it takes to make it back home again, regardless of the hardships he must face.

Songs of Love & Death is another quality anthology that packs a powerful punch from George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Although the theme is different, as a whole it is probably just as good as Warriors turned out to be.

With its spectacular line-up of contributors, Songs of Love & Death is the perfect gift idea for the Holidays! Give it a shot! You won't be disappointed!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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